Student calls for changes to beard exemption policy

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By Joe Belnap

(Joe Belnap)

A BYU student with a skin condition is calling for change to BYU’s beard exemption policy. BYU’s beard exemptions expire after 1 year, meaning that students like Ethan Walker have to painfully prove their exemption status year after year.

“Why BYU forces me to give myself hundreds of ingrown hairs to prove to them that I have a self-diagnosable skin condition, even though they already recognized it last year, is beyond me,” tweeted Walker.

“It seems kind of obnoxious to make me do that,” he said.

Walker suffers from pseudofolliculitis barbae, or razor bumps, which is common among Black men. “Black people experience razor bumps at a disproportionately high rate,” he said.

He claims that the beard policy is unintentionally discriminatory. “This policy was made before there were Black students at BYU,” Walker said.

BYU Communications responded to a request for an interview with an emailed statement. They said the dress and grooming standards continue to state that beards are not acceptable because that is how BYU chooses to represent itself.

BYU started the beard policy in response to cultural associations of beards in the 1960s. Other BYU students told Walker that he agreed to the policy so he can’t complain about it. “You can drive a car and not like how it shifts,” Walker argued.

Walker said he hopes that BYU’s new Office of Belonging will notice the racial disparity and push for change.

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